V.News Views: Alan Trevarthen

V.News Views: Alan Trevarthen

UMC Views with Alan Trevarthen

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With 40 years’ experience in underwater maintenance, repair and support services, UMC is expanding its global footprint – UMC’s Managing Director Alan Trevarthen talks about adapting to marine market changes

One thing we are noticing is that the whole area of compliance is becoming a real focal point for our clients.  We are seeing the demands of some of our key clients, such as, Shell, BP, Chevron, and Maersk being adopted by more and more of the market.

Improving the health, safety and environmental impact of underwater marine maintenance, repair and support operations - particular surrounding the safety of divers and protecting the reputation and duty of care of our customers - is starting to become an important issue for the market. Compliance is at the centre of all aspects of business for V.Group and UMC. It’s encouraging to see more of our clients asking these questions. Not only does it represent a positive change in the industry, but it will benefit our business at UMC in particular, as it makes plain which companies are providing complaint services and those who are not. We welcome this raising of standards across the market.

Although compliance might mean that UMC is not the cheapest service provider, demonstrating value for money remains an essential deliverable for UMC.  We must always ensure that we   offer cost effective solutions.  UMC has a depth of experience, a wide range of capabilities and the support of the Group which allows us to offer this kind of support.  

More recently we’ve been looking at expanding our global footprint and to sell a wider range of services.  We have been working with V.Scope to focus on selling collision and grounding underwater hull repair capabilities, targeting vessel owners, managers, underwriters, marine surveyors and organisations like the P & I Club. We have also been focusing on selling Fleet wide Support Agreements (FSAs).  These agreements are aimed towards providing entire fleets with an extensive menu of underwater Inspection Repair and Maintenance options and a flexible management service. In short, a reliable, adaptable, outsourcing solution, tailored to each customer’s needs and equally applicable to all types and sizes of fleets; tankers, containerships, cruise liners, platform supply vessels, drilling rigs, FSUs/FSOs and many more. UMC currently has more than 2,000 vessels under some form of Fleet Service Agreement.

We have also been focusing on the afloat repair and replacement of thrusters, stern seals and propellers and forming a new network called ONE OCEANTM to deliver the service. 

Having been involved in the ship afloat inspection business for more than 40 years, lately we have been working to translate these skills into the offshore, windfarm, port and marine construction markets. All of these sectors are looking for suppliers who can provide high quality tailored solutions at a local level. To achieve this we have been reviewing our accreditations, our services and geographic locations in order to present our business as a viable proposition for these markets.

One example of an area where we are forging ahead with innovative and environmentally compliant operations is in hull cleaning. There are now more demanding requirements placed upon these systems to ensure they don’t cause any harm to the environment. Most importantly is the need to offer closed circuit hull cleaning systems that capture the fouling removed from the hull.  This must then be filtered for appropriate disposal and the remaining clean water returned to the ocean. We have been looking at a range of technologies and methodologies that meet this criterion. We are working with companies in Singapore and the Middle East who supply Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV) for hull cleaning. Rather than the more traditional method of a diver driving a hull cleaning machines that use brushes. The ROV’s that we are working with are unmanned and use pressure to wash off the debris attached to the vessel. We are also working in Canada with a company that is developing a closed circuit diver operated cleaning machine that uses brushes. UMC has just completed its own development project to develop a closed circuit propeller polishing system. All of these machines are also equipped with a type of skirt which catches the waste material allowing it to be collected and filtered onboard the ship before the clean water is returned to the ocean. UMC’s focus is on service provision rather than R&D (research & development) so we offer a variety of hull cleaning solutions to suit our client’s needs. We believe in tailoring support to the client as opposed to one-size-fits-all approach – the sectors we work in are diverse so too must our solutions be.

Since we opened our Singapore office in 2009 we have greatly expanded our resources there and this is now our most rapidly growing regional hub.  Last year we secured funding from V.Group of $0.5m for a new diving tender to service commercial shipping in the Singapore anchorages.  We now have four diving teams working in Singapore and the pressure to supply more is growing.

In the later part of 2013 we also appointed a new Project Director, Tom Graham, to manage projects on board our vessels and reduce risk.  Tom has been working closely with the UMC staff, the wider Seatec Technical team and the V.Group Commercial department to provide added rigour to our management of projects. This has allowed us to take on a wider scope and complexity of projects, particularly in the offshore and marine construction sectors and in response to collision and grounding incidents. 

Gradually we have been able to support and supply to more of our managed fleet and work towards becoming their preferred supplier. There are different challenges to be managed when dealing with different sectors: in the offshore industry compliance is the highest priority, in the shipping industry you must, in addition to compliance, also work to meet the vessel’s schedule and budget. Each sector is challenging but supporting these sectors helps us to be a better business and develop more robust capabilities.  

UMC from Southampton to Singapore…


UMC has joined forces with marine service companies All Seas Enterprises and Phoenix to create a new network - One Ocean™.

The network will provide three main services:

  • replacement of ship stern seals
  • replacement of thrusters
  • repair & replacement of propellers

These operations tend to require a very large and skilled workforce who can complete projects in the allocated short periods of time available to the ships for repairs.

V.Group has backed the venture which will start by operating from 17 underwater IRM hub service centres located in North America, Europe, the Middle East, North East and South East Asia, each serving the local and regional market. There are well defined plans for growing the network and the number of hub centres will certainly increase over the next few years. The One Ocean network is already an approved supplier to Rolls Royce and Blohn and Voss and the approval of other OEM is well advanced.

Alan said: “We are keen to develop a Formula 1 pit-stop style service, so that no matter where a customer requires help they know they will be getting it at the same price and to the same high standard. This is exciting for us as it is more services which we can offer. The consolidation of service delivery offered by One Ocean is very encouraging. It can only improve the quality and reliability of affordable service delivery. This fits perfectly with our interest in the shipping and offshore markets.”

UMC in action - repairs around the world, around the clock

At the end of last year UMC responded to a large grounding incident involving a fully laden bulk carrier. The repair project was carried out at anchor off Bintan, Indonesia. UMC temporarily repaired two large holes on the bottom plating, each of more than 16 square metres in size. Faced with strong tidal conditions and poor underwater visibility at times as well as the vessels draft in excess of 19m, UMC took on the challenging task of placing the two large steel cofferdams in the way of the damage.

Collaborating with sister service provider SeaTec, UMC worked for extended periods over Christmas and New Year to assist the stricken vessel. With holes sealed by the cofferdams, the vessel was able to pump the flooded water from the tanks. Further temporary repairs were then affected from inside the vessel to allow the ship to sail on to her final discharge port in China. UMC was the only local service provider who came forward to support this large repair project.

Alan said: “We offered a very cost effective service in this case. The project was managed by our local Singapore team with some additional support provided by the wider UMC and V.Group resources. This was a high value high profile opportunity for us.”